The Red Arrows - The Ultimate High-Performing Team
Updated: Aug 14, 2022
The Red Arrows is always referenced as one of the “Ultimate High Performing Teams” in the HR and L&D world. So what makes them so special?
High performing teams do not magically emerge - they are created.
The #RedArrows, officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, was formed in 1964 and replaced a number of unofficial teams that had been sponsored by various RAF commands. Currently based in Lincolnshire, the team has flown almost 5,000 displays in 57 countries over its 58 year service.
The team changes every year with new members joining, experienced members leaving and all the pilots changing roles within the team. They fly at speeds in excess of 600mph, pulling up to 8G, and as close as 6ft apart. Despite this immense pressure they continue to create new #highperformingteams, year on year.
How do they do it?
This is something the RAF study and master in order to continuously create such an incredible team of pilots and ground crew each year. I will list below some of the strategies which the team models each year in order to continue their year on year success.
As you read through, ask yourself "How am I creating a high performing team"
RECRUITMENT: They select from the best, with clear minimum criteria and a detailed understanding of the proficiency level needed of each pilot. There is a one week selection process with flight tests and interviews.
TALENT MANAGEMENT: 3 of the 9 pilots each year are renewed to bring in new and fresh talent and to give more opportunities to other RAF pilots. This also mitigates arrogance and keeps the experience exciting and unique.
POSITION IN THE TEAM: New pilots start in an 'easier' position in the formation, closer to the leader so that the manoeuvres are slightly easier to perform. In future years they move to the outer edges of the formation (harder positions) where they use their experience and knowledge to create a successful formation.
LEADERSHIP & COMMUNICATION: They have an experienced leader who inspires the team and sets a clear vision, whilst always giving clear and precise communication.
BACK UP & SUPPORT: The team is supported by an elite ground crew (called 'The Blues') also trained to the highest level and work in close partnership with the Pilots to create one team. Also, they don’t over recruit, if someone is sick they adapt the team and formation (limiting any further work to the other pilots).
TRAINING: Training is intensive and includes fun, adventure and self/family time at weekends.
EMERGENCIES: Every 3 months they practise all emergencies in a simulator, just in case and to always be ready. When you work in a team like this, you have to be able to deal with emergencies at an individual level, whilst also maintaining the safety of the team.
CONTINUOUS & HONEST DEVELOPMENT:
All practice sessions and displays are recorded so development is based on real behaviour and experience.
Following each practice session, the team go straight into debrief to review performance - no waiting for another day!
Each member calls out their mistakes, faults and any issues they may have with the rest of the team.
If required, this discussion will go deeper in order to rectify, there and then. Remember, a team with issues is not a team!
Feedback is two way, regular, open and honest
Pilots trust each other with their life.
There is clear ownership, responsibility and accountability - no excuses.
The Red Arrows is an ultimate high performing team for many reasons. I have listed above just a few of these which I consider as critical for all businesses on their continuous journey to create #businesssuccess.
Lead with a vision and honest communication
Stay relevant, innovative and recruit the best
Constantly develop with evidence and curiosity
Feedback and growth are two-way, regular, open
Instil trust and model integrity
ACTION > FEEDBACK > REFLECTION
Take some time to sit down with your team and reflect on how you can create your own High-Performing Team.
And remember, always #pilotyourlife
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